I can’t stand Windows 8. I tried, honest, but I just can’t deal with it.
How do I go back to Windows 7?
That’s actually a composite of several variations, often with varying
degrees of colorful language.
Even after trying things like
Classic Shell, to get a Start menu back and remove most of the annoyance of
the tiled Start menu, some people simply don’t like Windows 8. So much so that
they long to go back to Windows 7.
It’s typically not terribly easy, but it is possible.
The fast track: Being prepared before you upgraded
For folks that have upgraded to Windows 8 over an existing installation of Windows 7 or earlier, reverting can be fairly simple.
Restore the image backup that you took of your machine immediately prior to the upgrade and you’re done.
Now, if you didn’t take an image backup of your machine prior to the upgrade, you’ll need to read on to find the more time consuming steps you’ll need to take.
And of course, if you haven’t yet upgraded or you’re considering upgrading to Windows 8 at some point, just remember to take that image backup of what you have before you upgrade. It can save a lot of time and effort should you want to revert.
Step 1: Take a system image
This is counter-intuitive to most people, but I’m of the opinion that it’s a critically important step, particularly if your machine came with Windows 8 pre-installed.
Take a backup image of your machine before you revert.
You may not believe me, but I think that someday, somehow, you’re very likely to want to upgrade back to Windows 8.
As we saw above, the easiest way to do that is with an image of what you have right now.
Take that backup image before you start. You may prove me wrong and never need it, but do it anyway. If you do need it someday, you’ll thank me.
And if you’ve actually done any work in Windows 8, taking a backup image of everything ensures that you’ll be able to transfer your data files back to your system when this process is done. (Although it might also make sense to copy your data files specifically to some other location, perhaps a thumbdrive or external disk, for easier retrieval.)
Step 2: Grab your Windows 7 Installation Media
Yes, for this step, you need a copy of Windows 7 to install.
Unfortunately, that may require that you purchase a copy of Windows 7 somewhere.
If your machine came with Windows 8 preinstalled, you might contact the vendor to see if they have a “downgrade” available, perhaps at a discounted price. This is actually the most desirable approach because they’ll probably provide a copy that includes any machine-specific software that’s appropriate for your situation.
If not, a retail version might be your only choice. You can download a copy of Windows 7 for free to perform the install, but you’ll eventually need to purchase a license key to keep the software running.
At least, the retail version won’t have a lot of the shovelware that many OEMs often include.
Step 3: Install Windows 7 from scratch
Unfortunately, there’s no way to “downgrade” an existing Windows installation – the only viable approach is to install Windows 7 from scratch.
I recommend that you choose the appropriate options as part of the setup process that will completely reformat (erase) your hard disk. It’s possible that with the existence of a newer version of Windows on the machine, this might be your only option.
Install Windows and then get it as up to date as possible.
It’s at this point I also like to take another system image as an alternative to needing to reinstall from scratch in the future.
Step 4: Install your applications
You’ll need to reinstall all of the applications that you care about that don’t come with Windows from scratch.
This also means locating the installation media for those programs or the downloads or re-downloading those that can be re-downloaded.
In many cases, this also means having your activation keys ready for those applications that require it. Whether printed on the original packaging, product receipt or confirmation email, activation keys should always be saved for times like this when you’re very likely to need them again.
And naturally, this will also mean reconfiguring those programs that require some sort of setup, including things like your email configuration, or any customizations that you’ve made to other programs.
This is also another good time to take another system image, as an alternative to needing to reinstall Windows and applications from scratch again in the future.
Step 5: Restore your data
If you had data on the Windows 8 machine prior to beginning this process, now’s the time to copy it back.
If that data was stored on a thumbdrive, external hard disk, or perhaps even another computer, you can just copy it back to the appropriate locations. If the data was simply captured by the backup image we used to start with (or you forgot to make a separate copy of something important and the backup image is all you have), then use your backup program to extract the data files that you care about and copy them back to your machine.
Step 6: Carry on
Windows 7 will be around for a long time. If you’ve gone through all this effort to revert, you can do so with the knowledge that support for Windows 7 won’t be ending any time soon, and perhaps most reassuringly, you’re not alone.
The success or failure of Windows 8 has yet to be determined. But the same is not true for Windows 7. Even today, it continues to grow in popularity and will be something that I feel is comfortable to count on for quite a while.
25 comments on “How do I go back to Windows 7?”
Sorry, but going back to Windows 7 is just plain unnecessary and imprudent. I’ve tried nearly all of the free and low-cost applications that eliminate all the gripes about Windows 8 and Classic Shell is one of the worst of them. You can eliminate all of the gripes that Windows 8 seems to produce with Start8 from StarDock.com. It seamlessly restores the Start button and menu. It easily enables you to boot directly into the desktop. It makes it simple to turn off the “corners” and essentially give you Windows 7 on steroids (which is what I’d call Windows 8). For just $4.99 after a 30-day free trial, you can get rid of all the annoyances you dislike about Windows 8 and keep it’s faster speed and more forgiving nature. Why on try Start8 first before you give up on Windows 8? You might be very pleasantly surprised.
Disclosure: I have no financial or other connection to StarDock. I’ve built about 70 custom computers on the side and have been using PCs since 1981.
Step 3: Install Windows 7 from scratch
Unfortunately, there’s no way to “downgrade” an existing Windows installation – the only viable approach is to install Windows 7 from scratch.
It is my understanding that if you purchase the Pro version of W8, it does have the option built in to revert to W7.
Good subject. You don’t address how to make a system image. I searched the site and found a how to on this that suggested using Acronis Home for making a system image. Is that still your recommendation.
Excellent article. Making sure you have a good backup system should be the first step in installing any programs, not just the OS.
I subscribe to e-newsletters from several sources. If there is a way to “downgrade” back to Windows 7, none of the experts have found it. Even Microsoft’s website says it cannot easily be done – it’s a one-way trip. Although my method is unorthodox (and not recommended), I did make sure I had a fully functioning copy of my Windows 7 (and installed programs) before upgrading to Windows 8. With all I’d read, I approached it with a somewhat negative attitude. I’d heard enough about the lack of a Start Button that, if that was all I didn’t like about Win 8, I would never have installed it. However, enough people posted on the Internet about moving the mouse pointer (or your greasy finger) to the corners to see what pops up. There’s a lot of other things people don’t like about Win 8. That’s why articles like this are very good.
Follow this chain.
Control Panel : System and Security : File History
Lower left corner – Windows 7 File Recovery (yes, it says Windows 7, but it works for Windows 8)
Upper left area – Create a system image
From there, just follow the instructions.
Jan.18th. Very nearly bought the £24 upgrade available in the UK. I first cehcked that Windows 8 would
1, work with my 4 year old Amd64
2, work with my printer and software
The result, most of my software would be junk and the printer, a 3 month old HP laserjet, would also be junk with no upgrades. Some of the items were tagged “need to upgrade”, but quite simply it wont work as is.
Why do Microsoft do this ?, that had a perfectly usable Win XP, why not just make it better and get it to work correctly ?, its absolutely daft !, we dont wnat a “new” start button that looks like a logo, we don’t want “tiles” that live on a iPhone, all we want is a system which everyone and his brother knows ( XP ) which does what it says on the tin. If you wnat to add crazy things or apps that make the flag go up and down at the front of the building, then do so, but please add them on. I think I will be with XP until i die !
Leo is currently recommending Macrium Reflect – That link goes to his article about why with several references also to how.
I agree that XP has the best desktop user interface of any Windows produced (except maybe 2000). However, it’s internal functions needed upgraded. I’ve been in maintenance long enough to know that sometimes the only way to improve something is to delete some features. The same is true of software.
I have an old scanner that I use too infrequently to warrant buying a new one. I need to run Windows 98 for that, so I kept an old P666 just for the scanner. Also, I have several programs I use that won’t run on Windows 98 or 7. So, I kept another old machine with XP for those.
As Leo has often noted, if you don’t have a compelling reason to upgrade to Windows 8, don’t do it. If XP does what you want, stick with it. Shortly you won’t be able to get patches, but then, too, it will drop off the malware writer’s horizon. If you find Windows 7 will run your programs and use your equipment, then go for it. Windows 7 will be around for a long time, and Windows 8 isn’t for everyone.
As for why Microsoft went the way they did with Windows 8, you have to look at the hardware market. Desktop sales are way down. The major push is for mobile devices. All the software companies were busy trying to corner the market with their OS. Microsoft took a little different view, and dropped their work on CE and a few other device-specific OSs. It’s kind of like people fighting over the apples on specific trees. Microsoft took a bold step and decided to go for the whole orchard. Windows 8 is an effort to cover as many devices as possible. Since desktop sales continue to decline, there was less emphasis on them with Windows 8. Microsoft did not abandon us. There are many of us who can, and will, use Windows 8. Others will stay with Windows 7 or earlier – depending on their use and needs. That’s the way it has always been with manufacturer’s and customers. Software – including OSs – is no different from any other commodity.
Leo, Windows 8 may be fine for children, film watchers etc., but I doubt it will ever be accepted by working users. As an Architect I use AutoCad and TurboCad and an oversize monitor which allows me to sit back and view entire drawings with ease despite failing eyesight. In order to do this without the use of a mouse and keyboard would slow my work down considerably. the touch screen function leaves me cold. I’m sure others do not readily accept this function and possibly never will.
Here is a strange one,
A friend of mine purchased a laptop with windows 8 on it. Something went terribly wrong he says it was his fault. He brought the Laptop to me to help reinstalling to factory default.
On boot up I pressed F11as being told in the instruction that came with the Laptop.
Now here is the surprise: Instead of going back to reinstall windows 8 it came up with Windows 7.
Explain that one anyone!!!
That sure sounds like the computer still had Windows 7 in its recovery partition. Must have been a late upgrade in the factory or store or something like that.
Some HP printers do not even provide working 64 bits drivers for windows 7. And they are announced that it will be there for windows 8 on 2013 Jan but now found delayed. So hold on, until you have drivers ready.
Hi Everyone, Here is my experience with PC’s and Win8. I bought my first PC from Radio Shack in the 80’s, it only had DOS on it, it was before windows. Heck, I remember having to get help writing a script just so the clock chip could load with each bootup so the system knew what time it was (and the chip was extra!) LOL…My point is I loved experimenting with computers. I would call myself an early adapter and always was the first of my friends to buy the latest upgrades and OS. I’ve built my own PC’s for over a decade now and enjoyed each upgrade. I had every single flavor Windows OS sold. BUT when I installed Win8, and I had high hopes for a simplified start page also, it was the other draw-backs which made using my desktop PC absolutely unbearable for me. It was a constant struggle to just get simple easy everyday tasks performed with the ease wich I was accustomed.
Things like having 3 windows open simultaneously so I can write in one window, read from say another window showing something I captured as a screengrab (yes, text in jpg) and copy and paste from a totally different text document all at the same time (which was a piece of cake for me with win7) just couldn’t seem to be done in win8. I tried opening the 3 windows and couldn’t. I could only get 2 equally sized windows opened at once, split, side by side full screen (that was the limit I was told) and there was no resizing of windows by dragging the side bar like in win7, no visible task bar to easily see what’s open and easily make that window active for typing (and yes, I know the trick to see running programs in win8 by moving mouse to side) but that isn’t the same, it switches full screen to that program or at best split screen. And trying to read a jpg quickly while typing in another window? the new picture program would open for jpgs in full screen (slide show mode) when all I wanted was a small open window of the jpg image, in my case text I wanted to read from a screen grab I had previously made to remember passwords and program keys. I didn’t want that clumsy new app opening up full screen. This is just one example, another is my onboard Sandy Bridge CPU graphics use to work along side my discreet graphics card with Virtu software, that is no longer supported with win8’s AMD graphic drivers. I could go on because I really wanted to solve bugs (I’ve done that with each OS upgrade)but this time it was different than ANY previous upgrade.
What was this difference? That the new OS was so counter intuitive that it didn’t just slow my work down, it grinded to a halt daily. I had no choice but to restore to a win7 image I had made.
And I haven’t looked back and never will, win7 is an excellent (and extremely fast) OS, so any code improvement for speed in win8 are outnumbered by changes that slow me down physically in my work. The net change was much slower productivity over win7 in total.
Perhaps I’ll try a win9? I like being on the cutting edge of technology but only when it is cutting edge and not a throwback to something worse than Vista ever was!
I don’t know what Microsoft was thinking even making win8 available for desktops? Perhaps it is the desire to sell apps to PC users? Because that’s all I found easy to do on win8, install and run needless apps. Oh and see full screen commercials, amazing.
That’s great for tablets! but PC’s run software not apps purchased at the dollar store online, rediculious thinking by top brass at Microsoft IMHO.
How are PC sales with Win8 this quarter? I doubt it’s what it should have been and the reason is event, win8.
Sorry for the long comment but thanks for reading it if you did.
There is, of course, another alternative solution that can make the reinstatement of W7 easier; although it may be too late for some.
In the installation process you come to a point where you are asked if you want to use the ‘Upgrade’ option or the ‘Custom’ option.
As long as you have prepared for this by making some space on your hard disk, you can create a separate partition and install W8 without losing W7 at all, using the ‘Custom’ method. Then if you don’t like W8 you can ignore it.
You may even be able to delete it, but I’m not sure how that would affect the W7 boot-loader. In any case, there’s no harm in leaving W8 in place, if you have paid for it. You may decide to go back and try it again later. So there’s no need to ditch it.
How do you make new partitions? I use EaseUS Partition Manager and Partition Wizard, both of which work very well; although the former only works in 32-bit unless you buy the Pro version. #Or they may have changed their options on this.#
And tweaking the boot-loader is dead easy with EasyBCD, which is readily downloadable. They ask for a small donation, which is very reasonable and not mandatory.
Between these tricks, you should have no problems installing a dual-boot system; or even more if you want. I’ve had computers with five systems in them at the same time.
I agree with the view of W8 expressed above, by the way, but I’m persevering with it. Last week’s Classic Shell suggestion has help a lot.
A warning for those using the upgrade version of Windows 8 and wanting to keep Windows 7. I tried both the “upgrade” and “custom” options. Both seemed to work and gave me the dual-boot option. However, the registration key for Windows 7 was flagged to expire after a specific time. I discovered this by checking the activation. Windows 8 was activated, but Windows 7 was flagged as being in trial mode. I don’t know if Windows 7 would continue to work after the trial period ended. I didn’t wait to find out. That wasn’t what I wanted, so I tried something else to make an effective dual-boot. Windows 8 download page clearly states that what is offered there is an upgrade to replace previous Windows versions. If you want to do a dual-boot or run a virtual computer, you need to buy the OEM version. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep Windows 8, with all the bad talk about it, so didn’t want to spend the money for an OEM version. The most effective way to revert to Windows 7 is as described here by Leo.
Although this is off the topic of this thread, I’m curious as to which version of Windows 8 you’re using. In cleaning up multiple copies of files, I’ve had three copies of Windows Explorer open side-by-side. Since reading your post, I pulled up about five different programs, including a .jpg. By right clicking the task bar, I was offered options for side-by-side, cascade and stacked. I chose cascade for my experiment. All the open programs displayed, and I could resize or move them as I wanted. Yes, I’m working in Desktop mode. The only thing I use the inane Start Page for is as a glorified Start Button. I have trouble getting the mouse to hit small buttons, so I like the over-sized ones on the Start Page; although they don’t really need to be quite that large.
For those who think Windows 8 is just for children and not serious workers, I take offense. I don’t consider Bookkeepers, authors, website designers, and such as children or just playing. And anyone who still thinks Windows 8 requires touch screens, and won’t work with a mouse and keyboard, just isn’t reading what’s available. Unless, of course, they are only looking for what’s wrong with Windows 8.
As I said, though, this is off the topic. Posts along these lines are a better fit for Should I Upgrade To Windows 8.
1.Win8 is basically for newer computers with different hardware. Lokk at all PCs, Lap Tops and Tablets with Win8, All have some 20-50% higgher prices than during Win7. This is although generally computer prices are going down. A trend.
2. To use Win8, forget about all other OS you had before and think afresh. Start from scratch.
3. Downgrading Win8 to Win7 on same computer is realistaically simpler than buying OEM Win7 and installing with formatting the HD as it means having to find out a lot of drivers that are applicable to Win7 in your computer. E.g. your CD and DVD Rom/Ram, even may be the keyboard which will make your task extremely difficult if not impossible if needed..etc
4. In my opinion Win8 is just an attempt from Microsoft to catch up with Google’s FREE OS (Android) that most users of Tablets have and therefore it was in my opinion designed for TOUCH SCREEN and not for traditional Windows users with key board and mouse. This, I imagine is the reason that normal users of Win7, WinXP..etc find it difficult to adapt.
Finally, a touch up point on upgrading from Win-XP to Win8. It looks for the validation key and good luck if you did not keep a copy. Microsoft are not much help in that.
I hope you are wrong, ‘Old Man’, as I have just done dual-boot installations as I outlined above in two PCs.
I can see nothing to suggest that either W7 or W8 will expire in the foreseeable future. By the way, it’s W8 Pro Upgrade, downloaded from Microsoft at a special offer price of £25. The Properties boxes just say that all the W7/W8 systems are ‘activated’ without qualifications or conditions.
What I will do now is monitor this carefully, in case I may have missed something. And I will report back here if I get problems of the kind you suggest; unless Leo instructs me to do it in a different manner, as it may take some time for problems to emerge.
Incidentally, the W7 installations were also done in the same way, using Upgrade editions, and the original XP partitions are also still in place. So I really should use the term multi-boot to be accurate. One of the W7s is HP, the other is Pro.
Mr. Leo, what are you running on your most-used computer? I’m still with XP Pro, because if it works, it don’t need fixed, but I be curious as to what you run. You run a business, I’m just a home-user. I don’t feel I need to up-grade when what I’m using works. Ok, XP is out the door as far as Micro$oft is concerned, but it works for me, and I’ve made my system as bullet-proof as possible – anything downloaded sits in Sanboxie untill I decide. It’s MY computer and it does what I want it to do, or I’ll turn the damned thing off and go read a book.
I trust your advice but nobody is right all the time.
Ignore this at your own peril!!! I had to say what I had to say and I feel like I might have wasted your time, but… Thanks for listening.
This is from Microsoft (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/upgrade-to-windows-8)
“If you want to build your own PC and install Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro, or want an additional operating system running in either a local virtual machine or separate partition (including a Mac), you can purchase the Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro System Builder products (OEM versions). If available in your country or region, Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro System Builder products can be purchased at participating stores, you’ll need to ask a sales rep for more information. This version does not include customer support.”
To check your Windows 7 activation go to Control PanelSystem and Security. In the lower left corner check to see if it shows a product number or how many days are left.
I’ve read posts on several other sites where people say it can be done because they just did it. However, I haven’t read where anyone was still getting dual-boot after an extended period of time. For your sake (and that of many others) I hope my experiences were not the norm.
In responce to Old Man’s question to me,
When I had tried Win 8 on my PC it was the Win8 Pro Upgrade CD however I could NOT get it to upgrade properly because of a conflict with the 2 graphics card drivers, the discreet AMD and the onboard Intel Sandybridge drivers. So I had to remove my graphics card and load Win 8 fresh from the upgrade CD and then install the graphics card back. I was able to do a fresh full install using an upgrade CD and got it to activate properly and download and install the free media center etc., it’s a little tricky to do but I’ve been upgrading for so many years I know all the tricks by now. Anyway, I’m glad you were able to get more than side by side windows open and could resize them, were you able to overlap them and float them individually on the screen as in win7?
That’s what I couldn’t do and once I gave up there is no convincing me to go back, sorry.
The thing is, for someone like me, if I had so much trouble trying to get my work done then for me it just wasn’t worth continuing to use.
I do believe Win8 is great for tablets but even touchscreens are unproductive for a desktop. Your hands will get tired reaching at the screen all day in my opinion.
It’s ok because Win7 isn’t lacking anything so I don’t feel like I am missing out on anything by going back.
I own 4 PC’s in different locations, so for me it was a test to see if I should upgrade all 4 at the low introductory price. Needless to say, I won’t be buying 3 more copies at any price, even free.
Thank you for your reply.
Using Cascade I was able to do all the things with the open programs/windows that can be done with Windows 7 and earlier. And, from the Desktop, it was done the same way, too.
As for touch screens, as several of us have pointed out, they aren’t needed. As long as there are bookkeepers, authors/editors, programmers, and others who rely on the keyboard, the keyboard and mouse will be around. They will not be effectively replaced until the glove/goggle system is nearly perfected. When will that happen? Just watch the game console industry.
You may want to hang on to the Win 8 CD and put it on a non-essential computer. Then you can test it more in whatever spare time you have. It’s a good OS with a not-so-friendly interface. The most redeeming feature is the ability to use the Desktop. If it wasn’t for that, I probably would dump Win 8, too.
Please let us know what your Windows 7 activation revealed. Did it still show the activation key? I think a lot of readers – and maybe even Leo – would be interested to see if you got the same results as I did.
This is another case where I would be happy to be wrong.
I bought a Win8 PC and want to go back to Win7. I have been reading everything I can get my hands on, including Leo’s steps. Some sites say that you have to change a setting in BIOS to do this and Lenovo says I have to download all the Win7 drivers on a flash drive to install later. I am looking for a comprehensive instruction sheet on this whole thing. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated!
The only reason you might have to make changes to the BIOS is if you have to install from a USB drive, and your computer isn’t already configured to boot from a USB drive.
As for downloading and saving the drivers, that would be a necessary step, especially drivers for your network card and/or Wi-Fi. You should be able to get the Win 7 drivers from the Lenovo website.
This article talks about the driver issue. In your case it’s likely you’ll need to use at least some of the downloaded drivers, but since Windows contains many drivers, you may not have to install all of the ones you’ve downloaded, only the ones which your computer warns you that you need to install. You still may want to install all of the downloaded drivers, because although you computer might run well on the Windows included drivers, the ones from Lenovo’s website may give you more functionality such as more settings options etc.
Will I need to install drivers after reinstalling Windows?
In reply to ‘Old Man’, I can now add some helpful information on my experiences with multi-booted W8 over the past few months.
When MS had it on offer for a low price, I decided to get the Pro Upgrade for four PCs. Some of them had XP and W7, while some had only W7. But they all accepted W8 by the ‘Custom’ method, which allowed all the previous OSs to be retained intact. And they are all still working, at least as reliably as any Windows system ever is.
Using Computer > Properties > View details in Windows Activation, the Product Keys were exactly as given to me by MS in their emails following the W8 Pro downloads. Actually, it only gives you the last batch of five characters, which is enough to confirm it.
If you want to see the full PK, you have to use a third-party program. And the only one that seems to work with W8 is Belarc Advisor, which I believe I found via one of Leo’s articles. It does a lot more than find PKs, but you have to install the whole program to get any help from it at all. Anyway, that seems to work OK. I say ‘seems to’ because all my PKs have been changed. So the original ones are no longer valid. It’s replacement PKs that I’m now seeing.
Why? Because of Windows Media Centre.
When I added W8, WMC was available free. Even now, the cost is not high. But the hassle factor was. I know how to do it now, but back then it was a bit of a nightmare. Let me explain.
MS encouraged us all to install WMC with that short-term free offer. What they didn’t tell us was that it transforms the OS and needs to be re-activated. And that’s where the confusion started.
No matter what PK I tried, the automatic online activation refused to work. Ultimately, it was the PK that came with WMC that did the job, but only by the semi-automated telephone method, which is always slightly stressful even after having used it many times. And only after going round in ever-decreasing circles for ages did it finally dawn on me what was happening.
I still have doubts about how I will do a future re-installation, should it be required. Will the original PK be accepted again? Will I be able to get an alternative ISO or DVD that includes the WMC transformation. Or will I have to through all that double-activation carry-on again? Hopefully that won’t be for some years – but you never know.
Anyway, in summary, I’m reasonably confident that I have various multi-boot PCs that work. And with the help of Classic Shell, I can still use W8 with the annoying Metro screen getting in the way. Thanks to Leo for that.